Brave the fireworks and pass a state budget Tuesday
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On Sunday, we saw political courage. If more courage follows on Tuesday, Illinois might finally pull out of its free fall.
The Illinois House voted to approve a bill that increases income taxes, doing the hardest part of creating a state budget for the first time in two years. That bill and a spending bill — the two halves of a budget — now must be considered by the Senate, where changes are likely or, quite possibly, the whole business will die an ugly death.
We’ll reserve judgment on the particulars of any deal until then, but you can be sure it will include unpopular tax hikes and spending cuts because Illinois must pay for its fiscal sins of the past.
We would rather today emphasize the courage we witnessed in the House on Sunday and encourage more of the same in the Senate on Tuesday, the Fourth of July. Senate President John Cullerton says he will call for a vote on a “balanced budget.” Our hope is that both Democrats and Republicans will find a way to a final deal, screwing up the courage.
Unless Gov. Bruce Rauner has a change of heart, any final deal will require bipartisan support in the Legislature sufficient to override the governor’s promised veto. The governor, counter-intuitively, might welcome an override. He then can sigh with relief that the state’s budget stalemate, which has been killing him in the polls, is over. And he can campaign shamelessly, with all his millions of dollars, against those did what was right and supported a tax hike — for multiple years or permanently — that he himself knew was necessary.
If we have learned anything in the last two years, it is that the damage done to Illinois by the lack of a budget far outweighs whatever good might have come of the policy reforms Rauner has long demanded in return. Unpaid bills and fiscal instability are destroying the state. Fifteen Republican members of the House, in breaking with the governor Sunday and voting in favor of a tax increase, saw it just that way.
“I chose to save the state first and continue to fight for reforms,” state Rep. Steve Andersson, of Geneva, said, getting his priorities right. “The other option was to me unthinkable, irresponsible and immoral.”
“Do I want to raise taxes? Absolutely not,” said Rep. Terri Bryan, of Murphysboro. “But I want you to remember what we’re doing here today. We’re paying our bills for our bad behavior, even before I came here.”
On July 4, 1776, the signers of the Declaration of Independence put their lives on the line. They could have been hanged.
On July 4, 2017, all anybody is asking is that the elected leaders of Illinois approve a budget, however imperfect. How hard can that be?